When photographer and serial womanizer, Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) returns home for his brother’s wedding, things go awry due to his cynicism with love, his past with the maid of honor Jenny (Jennifer Garner), and a visit from his deceased uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas). Wayne warns Connor that he will be visited by three spirits, all of whom will lead Connor through his past, present, and future. Over the course of the night, Connor experiences old heartbreaks all over again, discovers what people really think of him, and gets a glimpse of a lonely future if he doesn’t change his ways.
A romantic-comedy take on the Charles Dickens’s classic, A Christmas Carol, McConaughey’s Connor Mead takes the place of Ebenezer Scrooge. Except instead of money and greed, Connor thinks love is a manufactured emotion and weak. He does not believe in commitment and has left behind dozens upon dozens of broken hearts with very little remorse. His behavior can be traced back to his first heartbreak when his best friend and crush, Jenny, dances with another boy at a school function, simply because Connor was too scared to make a move himself. It’s then that his Uncle Wayne teaches him how to compliment, insult, and manipulate women into sleeping with him. Yes, it’s pretty repulsive.
Connor is also very vocally against his brother (Breckin Meyer) getting married to Sandy (a very shrill Lacey Chabert), and you have to wonder why he showed up at the wedding at all, instead of just sending a gift.
I’m a huge fan of A Christmas Carol, and will generally watch any and all adaptations of the classic. There really isn’t much correlation between Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and A Christmas Carol, save for the three spirits. Emma Stone kills it as the Ghost of Girlfriends Past, playing Connor’s first sexual encounter as a teenager. She’s silly and hyper and has some adorable braces… so yeah, it’s a bit creepy when ghostly Uncle Wayne hits on her at the end of the movie. Noureen DeWulf plays Melanie, both Connor’s assistant, and the Ghost of Girlfriends Present, which is really just showing Connor how much he’s despised by people, but how much he’s loved by his brother, and Jenny. The Ghost of Girlfriends Future (Olga Maliouk) then shows Connor a brief glimpse into his future, where Jenny marries someone else, and no one but his brother shows up at his funeral. This seems to be enough for Connor to change his ways and realize he loves Jenny. But up until that moment, he doesn’t really seem to care much about what he’s seen except for a few moments of visible regret.
The nice thing about A Christmas Carol is that Jacob Marley was doomed to wander the earth, carrying the heavy chains he forged in life, and he was truly remorseful about how he wasted his life… Uncle Wayne seems to be the same jerk in the afterlife as he was alive. But casting wise, Michael Douglas was pretty spot on for an over the hill cad.
There are a handful of funny moments, and I do love Jennifer Garner’s consistently earnest performances in these movies, but overall the movie is kind of bland. The bridesmaids are all one-dimensional women just looking to get laid (preferably with Connor), the groomsmen are all nerds, and it felt very “by the book” in terms of hitting particular rom-com tropes. Chabert is not a good actress, and I felt like Anne Archer and Robert Forster were wasted in their roles, although Forster has one of the funnier moments in the movie with his wedding toast. But Connor is not a likable person at all until the very end of the film, and while you can say the same about Scrooge, we at least see moments of who Scrooge once was before money became his priority.
I was just very underwhelmed by Ghost of Girlfriends Past, and it’s definitely not the adaptation of A Christmas Carol that it could have been. Even McConaughey’s charm couldn’t save this one.